Driver’s License

Driving a Car/Motorcycle

(c) National Police Agency

You must have a valid driver’s license to drive in Japan. If your license is from a member country of the 1949 Geneva Convention, you can drive in Japan with an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) from your country, as long as both your license and the IDP are valid. The IDP is good for one year.

Anyone holding a German, French, Slovenian, Monacan, Belgian, Taiwanese or Swiss driving license with an official Japanese translation of the license can drive a vehicle for one year in Japan.

If you do not have a license from your home country

and wish to get a Japanese license, you have to go through the same licensing process as a Japanese national. This includes attending driving school (the cost is around ¥300,000), taking written exams, a road test, etc.

If you already have a valid driving license from another country

and have been in the country of issue for at least 3 months since receiving the license, and have a clean driving record since coming to Japan, you can obtain a Japanese license without attending driving school.

If you have an International Driver’s Permit/a valid driver’s license from Germany, France, Slovenia, Monaco, Belgium, Taiwan and Switzerland with an official translation, and wish to obtain a Japanese license,

you need to start the process well before your license expires. It may take a couple months to change over your license to a Japanese driver’s license (depends on the issuing country.) Please note that you will switch your valid driving license from your home country. You cannot switch the International Driver’s Permit to a Japanese license.

The procedure and required documents for conversion depends on the country of issuance.
Below, we have outlined the procedures to get a Japanese driver's license with a valid driver's license from your country.

1. Get Your License Translated

Your foreign driver's license must be officially translated at JAF (Japan Automobile Federation  ) .
There are no branches which can offer the translation service in Okinawa.
You need to apply to the nearest JAF branch, Fukuoka branch by mail.

JAF Fukuoka branch
Address: 5-12-27 Muromi, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka-shi
Postal code: 814-8505
TEL: 092-841-7731

Please go to their link ( http://www.jaf.or.jp/inter/translation/index_e.htm ) and find "Application by mail" to know how to obtain the translation by mail.

Necessary Documents:

A clear color copy of your valid foreign driver's license (full copy of both sides)

A copy of your Residence Card or Alien Registration Card (front and back sides)

Translation fee of  ¥3,000 and return postage of  ¥392 by registered postal cash envelope which is ¥430.

Some foreign driving licenses do not contain all the information needed (e.g. date of issue). You may need to provide supporting documentation from your home country in this case. If everything goes smoothly, the translation should be delivered to you within four business days.

Also, if you have violation points on your foreign license, you might not be able to get a translation straight away. Please confirm with the officer at JAF for the procedure.

2. Get a Certificate of Residence

Obtain a Certificate of Residence (住民票抄本) from the Citizens' Affairs Section at your local government office. There is a nominal fee for the certificate.

3. Complete Paperwork at the License Center

After you have your translation and Certificate of Residence, the next step is to visit the License Center in Tomigusuku. You must bring the following items with you to the license center:

  • Your foreign license and a photocopy (full copy) of the license

  • JAF translation of your license

  • Residence Card/Alien Registration Card

  • Passport: The passport is to prove that you were in the country where your license was issued for at least 90 days after issue. If this documentation is insufficient, you must also bring your expired passport or other necessary documents (such as tax returns) which can serve as proof of the 90 days stay.

  • 2 standard small-size ID photographs (3cm x 2.4cm)

  • Certificate of Residence

  • Application fee of about ¥5,000. The actual fee depends on your nationality.

Please visit the License Center between 8:30 am and 11:00 am on a weekday to submit your paperwork. Paperwork should be submitted at window #10. Processing your paperwork may take several hours.

*If your driver’s license is issued from one of the following countries, you are only required to pass the aptitude test and are exempted from the written test on Japanese traffic rules as well as the practical driving skills test: Iceland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Australia, Netherlands, Canada, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Korea, Taiwan, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, France, Portugal, and Luxemburg.

Written Test

If you have a license that requires the written test, you need to make an appointment for the written test after the aforementioned paper work is processed and verified.

Road Test

After you have passed the written test, you will have to schedule a road test. The road test schedule is quite crowded, so it is likely that you will have to wait 1-2 weeks to take it. The road test costs around ¥3,500.

The License Center recommends that before you take the road test, you take at least one hour of driving instruction at a local driving school to familiarize yourself with the test course and standards. One hour of instruction costs around ¥6,000. This may save you the hassle of retaking the actual test again and again. There are two driving schools near Onna-son:

Kitaoka Jidosha Gakko (北丘自動車学校)

Address: 1841-22 Konbu, Uruma-shi
TEL: toll-free 0120-390-249 (Japanese only)

If you would like to have a practice session, you need to visit them and ask if you can take a lesson from the instructor on the day as they don’t accept advanced booking. A practice session costs ¥5250 per hour.

Agena Jidousha Gakko (安慶名自動車学校)

Address: 30 Oota, Uruma-shi
TEL: toll-free 0120-928-186 (Japanese only)

Agena Jidousha Gakko offers a ride from OIST or your home for an additional fee. Please contact the owner, Mr. Yagi (Japanese/English) at agena-ds@gamma.ocn.ne.jp for further details.

If you pass your road test at the License Center, your Japanese license will be issued on the same day. You might be asked to contribute ¥1000 to a prefectural "safe driving fund." This fee is voluntary.

Moped and Motorcycle Licensing

Mopeds

A Japanese driver's license allows you to drive mopeds (2-wheeled vehicles under 50cc) without any special certification. However, you cannot drive a moped with an International Driving Permit unless you are specifically certified for 2-wheeled mopeds in your home country. (Some countries, such as the USA, automatically certify you when you get your regular license. Check the driving laws of your country.) If you want to drive a moped and do not have the appropriate license, visit the License Center.

License Center

Address: 3-22 Toyohashi, Tomigusuku-shi

TEL: 098-851-1000

Necessary Documents

  • Residence Card

  • Certificate of Residence

  • 1 standard small-size photo (3cm x 2.4cm, white background, no head covering)

  • 1 Application form (available at the License Center)

You will need to bring these documents and take a written test. The test is offered at 13:00 every weekday. The test costs ¥1,650, which you must pay beforehand. Because the License Center is closed from 12:00 to 13:00 for lunch, you must arrive before 11:30 in order to turn in your paperwork and pay in time. A grade of 90% or over is passing, and it is a tricky test, so many people take it more than once. If you pass the test, you need to make an appointment for a riding course, and you must complete the course to receive your license. You must wear closed-toe, low-heeled shoes for the training course.

Motorcycles

If you already have a motorcycle license from a foreign country, you may apply for a Japanese license at the License Center in Tomigusuku. If you are from the one of the countries that requires both the written and practical test, you need to pass the written test in order to apply for the riding test at the License Center. It costs about ¥5,000. If you pass, you will have to sign up for a supplementary training course to receive your license. This costs ¥15,000. Even if you already know how to ride a motorcycle, it is advisable to take a few hours of lessons at a driving school. These lessons cost around ¥5,000 per hour and will prepare you for the test course and requirements. If you do not know how to ride a motorcycle, you will have to enroll in a training course at a driving school. Training courses last 2 to 3 months and cost around ¥100,000. Upon completion of the course, you will take the road test at the driving school, rather than at the License Center.

If you have a driving license for a car and a motorcycle in a foreign country, you can apply for a Japanese driving license for both cars and motorcycles at the same time. Please refer to the required documents detailed in “3. Complete Paperwork at the License Center”.

Renewing your License

The period of your vehicle license depends on the length of stay of your visa. Licenses for all vehicles (moped, motorcycle and automobiles) should be renewed before they expire. If the license expires, you will have to take the lecture/driver's test again to get a new license.

Applying for International driving permit

To apply for an International Driving Permit in Japan, you can apply at the license center in Tomigusuku-shi (TEL: 098-851-1000). The permit will be issued within an hour or two if you submitted all the required documents upon application. Please note that you can only apply for the permit with your Japanese driving license, but not with licenses of foreign countries.

Necessary Documents

  • Japanese Driving License
  • Passport
  • A photo (H5cm x W4cm)
  • ¥2,650